Don’t launch a leadership development program until you ask yourself these important questions.
If you’ve been a manager for more than a minute, chances are you’ve gone to a lousy leadership development program.
We’ll pause here to let you vent your frustrations. It was terrible because___________ .
We get it. Been there ourselves. Got the certificate.
And, if you’re a manager of managers, we imagine you’ve experienced the challenge of sacrificing “productive time” to send your managers to a leadership development program, only to find yourself scratching your head about what they learned and how they will apply it.
As soon as people find out we’re in the leadership development game, the stories fly. And if we get our friends into their second beer, the stories can be tragically comical.
Of course, it’s not always that way.
We truly hope you’ve had the opposite experience. That you’ve attended a game-changing leadership training that gave you useful skills to achieve breakthrough results and gain more influence. That kind of program is priceless.
What Makes the Difference Between Game-Changing and Frustrating?
When we talk to managers who’ve attended a great leadership development program, this is what we hear.
- A great leadership program is a process, not an event.
- A great leadership program is closely aligned with strategic business initiatives.
- A great leadership program inspires managers with new ideas and tangible ways to improve the business.
- A great leadership program creates long-term change in individual behavior and business results.
So how do ensure that’s what you’re getting?
Ask These 5 Questions Before Launching a Leadership Development Program
- What do I want to be different as a result of this program?
Don’t start training until you have a strong vision of what will be different as a result. What behaviors are you looking to change? How will that impact your MIT (Most Important Thing– strategic goals)? Don’t stop at “We need stronger team leaders.” Go deeper. Get specific. Work with a training partner who understands your business and who can build a program to achieve exactly what you need.
- How will we include the participant’s managers?
Training doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Be sure you have real buy-in from the level above. You don’t just want conceptual support. Managers need insights and specifics about what is being trained and how they can best support it. Ask for an executive briefing session before the program begins so leaders understand the ROI, are prepared with strategic questions and have a clear path to support their teams’ learning and application. Be sure you have the commitment from participant’s managers to provide them the time needed to fully participate in the program.
- How will managers apply what they’ve learned with their teams?
It’s scary for people to have their managers go off to training and then come back and feel like an experiment as the manager implements four new ideas without any explanation. You’ve probably lived through a manager who brought back a new idea, used it for a week, then forgot about it. That’s frustrating for the team and the manager loses credibility. Does this program include a process for re-entry? Will you managers be equipped to communicate what they’ve learned and to transfer their knowledge? (e.g. if they come back fired up about accountability, how do they do they begin holding people accountable if they never have before?)
- How will we build sustained learning over time?
You can’t learn to lead in one half-day workshop. Even if you have a limited budget, find creative ways to build programs that combine learning with practice, reflection, and feedback. How will this program provide daily and weekly reinforcement of key behaviors? How will we know what’s working and where managers are struggling?
- How will this program stir up new ideas and critical thinking to improve the business?
Great leadership training is bound to get your managers fired up with new ideas. Will the program leave them feeling empowered and excited to execute, or frustrated about great ideas that “will never happen around here”? Work with a leadership development partner who understands your culture and how things get done. The best leadership programs don’t just teach skills, they provide opportunities for application to improve the business.
If you’re looking for a way to continue this conversation with your team, print this guide as a conversation starter.
We would love to hear from you. What additional questions would you add for leaders considering building a new leadership development program?